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Upgrade Your Good Little Amp to GREAT (Pro Junior, Super Champ XD/X2, Blues Junior, etc.)

by vaughn skow November 01, 2016 3 min read

Upgrade cabinet speaker Fender Pro Junior Super Champ XD X2

You may have noticed that over the last decade or so Fender has released some cool little tube amp designs, like the ever popular straight-up tube amps the Blues Junior and the Pro Junior as well as the tube hybrid Super Champ XD and X2.  All of these amps have a club friendly 15-20 watts through either a pair of EL84’s (The Blues and Pro Jr.) or 6V6’s (the Super Champs).  This is the exquisite power section of the famous AC-15 or Deluxe Reverb … a VERY good platform on which to build a club-sized tube amp, and on their own these little amps sound quite good, but to heck with good … we want GREAT, right?

So, what keeps these amps from sounding truly great? 

Is it their PC board construction, pre-amp stage, or poor component selection?  No; it’s the cabinets and speakers.  All of these otherwise excellent combos suffer from the same malady: they have cheap speakers crammed into cheap, too-small cabinets.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is a recipe for mediocracy at best.  The good news is that there IS a fix!  Let’s talk about that.

Every one of these is a GREAT sounding design, but it’s like having a great engine in a Yugo(click on the word if you don’t know what a Yugois).  The tiny cabinets Fender crams these things into are made of particle board so heavy that you would swear it’s part lead; there is absolutely no room for the speaker to breathe, and no cabinet resonance at all.  The end result: a box that sounds … well … boxy!  And so, I will present you with two great alternatives that I personally am intimately familiar with; both of these options will take your little amp from “meh”  to “YEA”!

First, I present the “Pro Senior”:

Upgrade cabinet speaker Fender Pro Junior

I owned a Pro Junior for a little while … and “meh” was a perfect way to describe it, I loved that cute LITTLE cabinet, and even made a 3/8” lightweight baffle and put a 12” speaker in it … but the fact is, that dense little cabinet just physically can’t sound great.  But wait!  Enter the 2x10” “Pro Senior”; this amp is owned by my buddy and HEAVY gigging player Brad Sample, and it’s been on hundreds of stages of all sizes all over the country.  The chassis is a plain old un-modified Pro Junior, but the cabinet is a healthy sized 2x10 made by JD Newell from Grade A knot-Free pine and has a lightweight floating baffle for 2 10” speakers.  Brad used the stock very bright Fender speaker and added the VERY bottom-heavy hemp-cone Eminence Lil Buddy, and the result is a GREAT sounding simple volume & Tone tube amp that can easily keep up with a heavy hitting drummer!  Awesome, right? (BTW: a WGS G10C and an ET10 would be the ULTIMATE speaker combo in this cabinet).

Now, I present the truly “SUPER” Super Champ XD:

Upgrade cabinet speaker Fender Super Champ XD X2

As you all might remember, I LOVE my little Vibro-Champ XD for after-the-family-goes-to-bed living room playing.  So, I started looking into its big brother, the Super Champ XD as a club-gig amp.  Problem was, they just didn’t sound that great … too boxy … plus, not nearly enough clean volume to keep up with a live drummer.  So, when I spotted this ultra-cool Super Champ XD in a high-quality tweed covered 1x12 made by The Musician’s Hardware Store … I just HAD to own it!  As you might expect, I did an exhaustive bunch of speaker tests, and Ultimately chose a Reaper HP as the flat-out winner for this amp, it retains all the Fender sparkle and chime, plus adds a bunch of tight, solid bottom (I like my bottom tight and solid) … and it’s efficiency coupled with the quality lightweight and resonant cabinet means that this lil gal can EASILY keep up with a slammin’ live drummer.  Oh, and best of all for those of us who care about our backs, because the new cabinet is so much lighter than the original particle board cab, the final amp is only 2-pounds heavier than a stock Super Champ XD … even with the heavy-magnet Reaper.  Yea BABY!

Now, if ya wanta go whole-hog, contact my buddy Jimi Lundin and have him whip you up a one-of-a-kind cab for your lil gal. Jim is quite an artist and makes my cabs.

Vaughn Skow MK1 C1 1x12 Amp Tube Amplifier Botique

So, maybe you have some OTHER tiny tube amp that suffers from the same combo of a cheap speaker inside a too-small box.  Fear not!  Folks like Jimi, JD Newell and The Musician’s Hardware Store can make a superior quality cabinet for most any amp out there … oh, and of course WGS will always provide the best speaker at an unbelievable price.  Feel better?  Yep, I thought so :-)

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